When Jillian Orr walked across the stage to accept her degree in psychology from the Mormon-owned Brigham Young University, she was anxious — and not just with the usual pre-commencement, rest-of-your-life-ahead-of-you jitters.
Orr planned to use her final moments as an undergrad to honor herself and the other LGBTQ students at BYU like her who hadn’t felt comfortable being fully authentic on campus, instead feeling pressured to hide some or all aspects of their LGBTQ identities. In recent years, the school has made clear that it does not embrace gender and sexual diversity.
In the last two years, LGBTQ students at BYU have seen their school seem to bend to inclusion, only to then double down on exclusion. In 2020, weeks before the pandemic would halt in-person classes, BYU administrators removed a passage from the university’s honor code that explicitly banned “homosexual behavior.” At the time, LGBTQ students were cautiously optimistic that this meant they could be more open about their relationships on campus.
Then came the apparent reversal: Two weeks after students celebrated what they believed was a major change to the honor code, the church clarified that “homosexual behavior” was still “not compatible” with the school’s values. Orr, who was on campus during the whirlwind of celebration and subsequent letdown, called the announcement a “kick in the knees.”